If there was ever a topic fueling the fires of the Judeo-Christian industry, it’s the “second coming” of Jesus Christ! I recently tuned into The Jim Bakker Show (remember him?) and he was preaching his heart out. He was going through Matthew 24 about all the signs that would precede Christ’s coming again. The camera panned the three other people seated at the table with him to show them nodding in agreement. After citing all the various signs indicating the Lord’s soon return, he stopped and looked up at the camera and declared, “This is happening today, folks!”
Prophecy discussions like this, from a wide range of “Christian ministries” and churches, certainly lend a spell-binding effect that keeps em’ coming back to “get the latest” prophetic news and gratefully make a generous contribution. It sells!
The Second Coming and World Missions
As mentioned in my last article, the coming of Jesus Christ and world missions are interlinked. According to popular interpretation, Jesus will not come again until the “gospel of the Kingdom” is “preached in the whole world … and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Toward “the end” there will be “a great tribulation” (verse 29) and distresses will crescendo until Jesus comes “with power and great glory…” (verse 30). But not until the gospel is preached to all “humankind.” Hence, world missions is the priority.
My wife was taught this as a missionary kid (MK). She tells the story of when she was a little girl that one night the small town in which they lived in the Philippines Island of Mindanao burned down. She said she grabbed her Bible and held it close to her chest to make sure that when the Lord came she wouldn’t be caught without her Bible. She had been taught the “signs of the times” and thought this was it!
What does a small town burning on a remote island in the Philippines have to do with Christ’s coming? It illustrates how these “signs of the time” get lost in the interpretation of biblical theology.
The Question of Christ’s Coming
The Judeo-Christian atmosphere is saturated with the soon-coming advent of Jesus Christ. People are overwhelmed with wonder and awe and such futurist doctrine is so strong that it makes it darn near impossible to even ask the question, “But what does the Bible Say?” That is a deeply disturbing question!
Moreover, such a challenge to a popular and emotionally-held belief presents quite a thick barrier to any attempt at a reasonable discussion of the coming of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, such a discussion may be nigh impossible because it would require a knowledge and understanding of the whole Bible in context and agreement on the type of literature style used in prophetic texts and how prophetic passages should be interpreted in light of that type of literature. (I dedicated a whole chapter about this in my book, The Biblical Story of Prophecy, Book Six). That is why my book on the subject of prophecy comes after Books One through Four.
All that said, the question of the coming of Jesus Christ is this: Is He still to come at some point in the future or has He already come? What does the Bible say and how do we find that out? So, at any reading of prophetic passages such as Matthew 24 (and parallel passages like Mark 13 and Luke 21) we must ask:
- Who is speaking?
- Who is being spoken to?
- What circumstances gave rise to the passage in question?
- What was the historical context?
- What impact did the surrounding biblical context have?
- What did the speaker reasonably intend the hearers to understand?
- What did the hearers or recipients reasonably understand the speaker to mean?
The studied answers to these questions will give rise to the conclusion and answer to the question about the timing of Jesus Christ’s coming as true, correct and certain according to the evidence.
Is the Question of Christ’s Coming Important?
Absolutely! There are tremendous, life-changing implications because it forms a perspective of what we are to be doing in respect to the Kingdom of God and why. On the one hand, either the Kingdom can be manifested now as God intended or, on the other hand, it is yet to be manifested as God intended – but only, in this scenario, when Jesus returns. Either God is waiting for us to take full responsibility to manifest His Kingdom now, or we are waiting for Him. Can you see how that would change your mindset and perspective of life now?
Up next: A historical event that illustrates the implied perspective of the timing of the coming of Jesus Christ.
Lawrence Blanchard, ND, M.Div.